Longtime Democratic campaign strategist and environmentalist Mitchell Schwartz told the LA Times on Tuesday that he will run next year against Mayor Eric Garcetti. Schwartz has worked behind the scenes on campaigns for Antonio Villaraigosa, Barbara Boxer, Al Gore and Bill Clinton, and in 2008 ran the California campaign for Barack Obama. Schwartz was a spokesman at the State Department under President Bill Clinton, and is currently on the board of the LA League of Conservation Voters, where he used to be president.
And if you vote in Los Angeles elections, you have almost certainly never heard of him.
So why run for mayor, without any known political base of his own, against a Democrat whose fans see him as a future star of Schwartz's own party? Schwartz, 55 and a neighbor of the Garcettis in Windsor Square, talked to the LAT's Peter Jamison:
“Obviously, I’m a little bit of an underdog,” Schwartz said. “But I’m determined to do this. And once I’m in it, I want to win...”
Schwartz said he has been exploring a mayoral run and holding meetings with potential supporters since the fall. He said he decided to enter the race out of concern that the city is not dealing effectively with surging homelessness, rising crime, decaying infrastructure and patterns of real estate development that Schwartz characterized as “out of control.”
“This is not about Eric Garcetti. I know Eric and I like Eric. He’s a nice guy,” Schwartz said. “But the quality-of-life issues that are facing this city are all trending badly.”
Schwartz said he was encouraged by people both inside and outside City Hall who told him that the city was not adequately delivering basic public services. Garcetti placed promises to improve those services at the center of his 2013 campaign.
OK, so Schwartz is not the leading edge of a revolt bubbling up from the neighborhoods in a city where almost no one votes. He is a member of Temple Israel and on the committee for the Future of Cities: Leading in LA group that convened last year, so he's got connections. But for now, that's about it. It's way premature to take Schwartz seriously as a challenger to an incumbent mayor, but Jamison suggests that just by running he could "prove an unwelcome distraction for Garcetti" and complicate any ambitions the mayor may have to use reelection to propel him into a 2018 race for governor.
Schwartz may well build a currently non-existent political movement over the next year, and after he does, the media should start to cover him. Until then, well, longtime Democratic strategist Darry Sragow says in the Times story: "Going into this, you’d have to say that this is the longest of long shots. And it’s been my experience that most long shots remain long shots.” Yup.